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Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Songkran Festival in Chiangmai

The Songkran Festival in Chiangmai

Songkran today is still the most important of all the Thai festivals and holidays. It marks the beginning of a new astrological year and is much in keeping with the old lunar calendar of Siam. It is officially celebrated this year on April 12, but the festival actually takes place over a period of four days. It includes the 'Troot Festival' discussed above as well as all the merit-making at Buddhist temples and the ultimate Songkran, or The Pouring of Water ritual, by which we have come to identify Songkran with today. Each year, the four-day celebration of Songkran consists of many activities, and these are briefly explained below.

April 12 is Wan Sungkharn Lohng. This is a day for house cleaning and general preparation for the New Year. In the evening it is traditional for Thais to dress up as a signal of the coming new year. In Chiangmai, the Songkran procession is held on this day. This is a parade through Chiangmai comprised of Buddha images and attendants on floats, which are accompanied by minstrels and the town's people. The procession begins at Nawarat Bridge on the Mae Ping River and moves the Thapae Gate before approaching its final destination of Wat Prasingh.

April 13 is Wan Nao. On this day people prepare cooked meals and preserved food for the Buddhist merit-making that takes place on the following day. Activities at Wat Prasingh continue on this day and in the evening local residents go to the banks of the Mae Ping River and gather sand to be deposited in piles topped by flowers in the temples. This practice is the ancient "raising the temple grounds" ritual which was necessary in the old days because then Thai New Year was held at the end of the rainy season in the first month of the old Thai Lunar Calendar.

April 14 is Wan Payawan. On this day a grand new year begins with early morning merit-making at the temples. Preserved and cooked foods, fresh fruit, monks' robes and other offerings are made at the temples. In the home, people do the final cleaning of Buddha images using scented water. Traditionally this is the day that the pouring of water begins. It was once the practice to pour gently, but the fun-loving Thais have transposed this into a relative water free-for-all.

April 15 is Wan Parg-bpee. On this day homage is paid to ancestors, elders and other persons deserving respect because of age of position. This is called 'Rohd Nam Songkran', meaning 'The Pouring of Songkran Water', and the water is sprinkled on the elder persons while uttering wishes of good luck and a happy future. In Chiangmai, this is the final day of the celebration and the day on which people have built up to a crescendo of water throwing. It is the day when all family and religious obligations have been completed and the people are totally dedicated to "Sanook...Sanook."

Songkran Festival in Bangkok

Songkran Festival in Bangkok
Date : 10 - 15 April, 2009
Venue : At The 9 Sacred Places and Rattanakosin Square, Bangkok

Experience the demonstration of the Songkran Festival in 4 regions at Wat Pho as well as enjoy demonstrstions of Thai food and local desserts, feast your eyes on cultural performances.
Moreover, in the Songkran Festival, TAT would like to invite you to dress Thai attire, visit and participate in the event of "the 9 Sacred Places ". the 9 royal temples in the Rattanakosin Square. To experience the wonderful treasure and enjoy the Songkran Festival in authentic Thai syle.

Wat Phra Kaeo
Motto : Endless Wealth and ProsperityVisit Wat Phra Kaeo and pay homage to the Emerald Buddha as well as experience the wonderful Royal Palace.

Wat Pho
Motto : Calmness is HappinessExperince the demonstration of Songkran Festival in 4 regions, enjoy folk plays Thai food and local dessert. Pour some Thai scented water on a Buddha image.
Wat BowonniwetMotto : Receive the Good Things in LifeFeaturing Songkran Festival in Central Region, pour some Thai scented water on Buddha image and monks, splash cooling water with elephants and experience ancient Thai bazaar.
Wat SaketMotto : Create Auspicious VisionPour some Thai scented water on Buddha relics, Buddha image and monks. Create a sand pagoda and splash!

Wat Suthat
Motto : Enlarge Your Visions and Charm the PeopleExperience Songkran Festival in Southern style, and its rituals, pour some Thai scented water on a Buddha image and monks as well as enjoy cultural performances.

Wat Chanasongkram
Motto : Conquer All ObstaclesFeaturing Songkran Festival in the Raman style, feast your eyes on the demonstation of Raman culture and hoe to play Songkran in its way. Pour some Thai scented water on a Buddha image, and monks as well.

Wat Kanlayanamit
Motto : Bon Voyage and Have Good CompanyLet's enjoy Songkran along the river, pour some Thai scented water on Buddha image and monks, and experience cultural performances.
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
Motto : Have a Prosperous LifeFeaturing Songkran at Bangkok, pour some Thai scented water on Buddha image and monks, and enjoy various forms of entertainment.

Wat Rakhang
Motto : To Be Admired and LovedOffering alms to monks, pour some Thai scented water on a Buddha image and monks and experience cultural performances.

Songkran at Sanam Luang, Suan Santi Chai Prakhan (Phra Sumeru Fortress) Bang Lumphu Square and Khaosan Road.
Date : 11 - 15 April 2009 Featuring the Light and Sound Presentation at Sanum Luang, the Beauty Pageant, Miss Songkran Wisut Krasat and Miss Songkran International on Khaosan Road.
11 April, 2009
08.30 hrs. - Featuring the Buddha image procession from Wisut Krasat Junction to Suan Santi Chai Prakhan. (Phra Sumeru Fortress)

12 April, 2009
07.00 hrs. - Experience the procession of Phra Phuttha Sihing from National Museum to Sanam Luang.
10.00 hrs. - Featuring the Buddha image Procession from Wat Bawonniwet to Suan Santi Chai Prakhan (Phra Sueru Fortress) and pour some Thai scented water on a Buddha image.

13 April, 2009
07.00 hrs. - Experience the wonderful procession of Buddha image and beautiful float in Bang Lamphu Square.

For more information :Bangkok Tourist Division, Tel. 0 2225 7612-4TAT CAll Center 1672 http://www.songkran.net/

The Rites of Songkran

The Rites of Songkran (Thai New Year )

At the Thai New Year there are rites and rituals that people participate in as part of the New Year blessings and Buddhist merit-making, One of these is the splashing of water. Water runs deep in the Thai New Year traditions, both as a symbol of cleansing and as a symbol of renewal. These days we tend to recognize the throwing of large amounts of water as the epitome of the Songkran festivities but is has always been the more delicate water splashing that represents the gentle nature of Songkran and the Thai New Year.

The family sprinkling scented water from silver bowls on a Buddha image is a ritual practiced by all Thais in on the third day of Songkran, known as Wan Payawan. This is the first official day of the New Year and on this day people cleanse the Buddha images in their homes as well as in the temples with scented water. The family is dressed in traditional Thai costume and wearing leis of jasmine flower buds. The water is scented with the petals of this flower.
In addition to the cleansing of the Buddha images a traditional Songkran involves the sprinkling of water by younger people on the older people as a tribute of respect and for blessings. This is much different from the water tossing we see on the streets and is a genuinely sincere event whereby scented water is poured over the shoulder and gently down the back of the person. While pouring the water in this manner, people utter good wishes and words of blessing for the New Year. The water symbolizes cleansing, refreshment of the spirit and all good things associated with life.

Related to the water pouring is the ritual of the tying of strings. This involves the tying of strings around the wrists of others and expressing good wishes for the New Year. When a person ties strings to another's wrist, it s a very important event. He or she approaches with a gentle smile and holds out the string by the two ends and then begins to tie. The person receiving the string has his or her arm outstretched with the under side of the wrist facing upward. While tying the strings, the person recites short prayers of blessing spoken directly for the individual.This is one of the most charming events of Songkran and it's one that you should show great appreciation for should someone approach you to apply the strings to your wrist. At Songkran a person could have as many as 25 or 30 strings on each Wrist each from a different person, and these are to be left on until they fall off of their own accord.

As part of the water sprinkling, water splashing and string tying rites, you may also encounter a person with a small silver bowl filled with a white powder or pasty substance. This is one of the oldest Songkran traditions. The white paste is a sign of protection and promises to ward off evil. The person with the paste is often older and he or she applies the paste to various parts of the face, neck and torso of others. One is expected to leave this paste on until it washes off of its own accord, and while there is a tendency to shy away from this paste because it looks like it might ruin the clothes, it is water soluble and will not harm materials.

There are other rituals and merit-making rites that people engage in at Songkran. In addition to the traditional cleaning of the home and bidding the old year adieu, these include making offerings to local temples and the monks. The offerings include preserved foods cooked dishes, fresh fruit and new robes for the monks. Also people build sand piles on the temple grounds and these sand piles represent personal pagodas built as part of the merit-making ritual.
The traditions of Songkran have a long history and are still observed in the Thai homeland of Sipsong Panna in southwestern China, in Laos and in northern Burma. Songkran or the Thai New Year, is actually the occasion of the passing of the sun from Taurus into Aries. It is a solar event and it marks the beginning of a new astrological year, and this is very important in Thailand. Songkran day always is April 13.

The Thai New Year celebration: always is held on April 12,13 and 14 officially but an entire week will be filled with fun in Chiangmai

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